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Is BN ready for the election?

  • Umno leaders began to lose their ways after GE13, deepening the distrust among BN's component parties. Leg-pulling is possible if things get out of hand.

Sin Chew Daily

The Robert Kuok incident has sparked skepticism between Umno and MCA, and it is by no means the first time such a row has erupted.

What is worse is that the incident took place just before GE14. It is hoped that things will be put to a rest very soon so as not to hamper grassroots morale.

In 2015, Sungai Besar Umno chairman Jamal Md Yunos called for a rally on Sept 16 to defend the dignity of the Malays. A BN supreme council meeting was convened on Sept 14, and even most BN component party leaders were against the rally, Najib said the coalition decided to allow the rally to go ahead on several conditions.

Unfortunately there were banners calling for the abolition of SJKCs and arguing that Malaysia is the land of the Malays. The protestors even attempted to break into Petaling Street.

Despite all these, PM Najib claimed that the rally was held peacefully, triggering the Pasir Gudang MCA Youth to cut its ties with the prime minister.

Umno leaders subsequently began to attack Pasir Gudang MCA Youth, and Umno Youth chairman Khairy Jamaluddin challenged it to quit BN.

The Robert Kuok incident, I believe, has reawakened the memories of MCA grassroots of the unpleasant past.

On the RUU355 issue, Umno acted against the will of other BN component parties. DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on March 17 last year that the government would take over the tabling of RUU355 amendment bill, saying while the move could cost Umno some old friends, it had nevertheless won the approval of a "new friend".

The "old friends" failed to square off the issue with Umno, allowing it to continue doing what it wanted.

As for the Robert Kuok incident, even though MCA was aware that this whole thing had been a ploy by the Umno information bureau, they could only target their wrath at Nazri, accusing him of colluding with DAP to undermine the ruling coalition.

Even as Umno leaders tossed harsh criticisms at MCA, thus jeopardizing the BN spirit, they have largely escaped punishments, and in the end when Chinese Malaysians vote against the BN, MCA is to be blamed for it.

The incident will very likely deplete the ruling coalition of the few percent Chinese votes that would have otherwise returned to BN, especially in Johor. It is utterly essential for MCA leaders to understand how the grassroots feel.

As a matter of fact, the many unpleasant incidents that have taken place over the past few years have eroded the mutual trust among BN's component parties. For example, the squabble between Nazri and Sarawak tourism, arts, culture, youth and sports minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah and three federal-level ministers from East Malaysia over the issue of tourism tax has given East Malaysian BN leaders a good reason now to fire at Nazri in the Robert Kuok bickering.

Umno leaders began to lose their ways after GE13, deepening the distrust among BN's component parties. Leg-pulling is possible if things get out of hand.

BN appears to have lacked viable solutions in the face of these major issues. For example, as the federal government failed to come up with a firm decision on religious conversion, the Sarawak state government had to amend the Sarawak Islamic Religious Council Ordinance 2001 to address the issue on conversion.

In addition, skyrocketing cost of living, inflationary pressure, household debts, rising house prices and crime have all eroded the confidence of Malaysians.

BN itself is plagued by a number of troubling issues such as new developments in the 1MDB scandal, the confiscation of of luxury yacht Equanimity allegedly belonging to Jho Low by the Indonesian authorities, and communication and multimedia minister Mohd Salleh Said accusing the opposition of cooking up unverified news.

BN component parties from East Malaysia are poised to demand expanded rights on the eve of the 14th general elections, putting the relation between the federal government and the two states of East Malaysia to a stringent test.

The unexpected outbursts over Robert Kuok have highlighted an acute confidence deficit on the part of some Umno leaders, the lack of comprehensive consensus strategy within BN, as well as conflicts among BN component parties. There are still apparent weaknesses within the coalition on the aspects of cooperation, team spirit and mutual understanding.

BN needs to convince Malaysians that its existing governing model is capable of tackling and resolving the many issues this country faces. It must not become a part of the problem but one that provides the solutions to secure a breakthrough in the coming general elections.


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